Breaking: GOP leaders warn Michigan election director of imminent subpoenas

Republicans to launch investigation into allegations of election misconduct

By: - November 6, 2020 8:23 pm

Poll workers assist voters in Lansing on Election Day 2020. | Matt Schmucker

Michigan’s GOP-led state Legislature plans to launch its own investigation into the handling of the state’s Tuesday general election, according to a letter obtained by the Advance Friday.

In the letter sent Friday to Michigan Bureau of Elections Director Jonathan Brater, state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) write that the inquiry is based on “numerous allegations regarding the integrity of the November 3 election, both made publicly and privately to members of the Legislature.”

Earlier Friday, the Advance was the first to report that the Republican-led House and Senate Oversight committees will convene a rare Saturday morning hearing to address GOP allegations of election misconduct. 

Since Michigan’s vote count began to lean toward Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden, President Donald Trump and Republicans in Michigan and beyond have continued to make unfounded claims that the ballot counting process was fraudulent or otherwise illegal. Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel held a press conference in Oakland County on Friday. Republicans have not had success in the courts to stop the vote count, which has been completed.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield (left) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (right) | Allison Donahue

Biden was declared the winner of Michigan by the Associated Press and multiple outlets on Wednesday. He has an almost 150,000-vote margin against Trump. Media outlets have not called the election, although Biden has led Friday in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada and Georgia, which have not been called, and would put him over the top in the Electoral College.

The state Legislature plans to issue subpoenas as part of the investigation. As such, Shirkey and Chatfield, who both backed Trump,  inform Brater that the Bureau of Elections needs to be prepared to take steps to preserve data and documents that may need to be handed over. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is a Democrat.

The information that lawmakers are specifically seeking includes:

  • All information and communications regarding the May 2020 mass mailing of absent voter ballot applications
  • All information and communications regarding the Sept. 2020 mailing of approximately 4.4 million postcards
  • All information and communications regarding the Sept. 2020 mailings of 700,000 letters to individuals with a Michigan driver’s license or state ID card, but who are not registered to vote

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Shirkey and Chatfield also request that copies of their letter also be provided to third-party contractors and consultants involved with the election in case they, too, have data that could be relevant to the inquiry.

“Failure to take all reasonable steps toward preserving electronic information may cause irreparable harm and could result in civil and criminal sanctions,” the letter reads.

“While the Legislature’s inquiry may not result in any change in the current vote totals, we believe it is our duty as the leaders of our respective chambers to do everything in our power to give the people of Michigan confidence that elections are conducted fairly and accurately.”

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).